Love: The Most Used, Misused and Misunderstood Four Letter Word

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It’s the month of love so let’s talk about it. Has it ever happened to you that in the midst of a tough day, a thoughtful message from your partner made you put on your silliest yet widest grin? 

Well! That’s the magic of words. And, words are one of the most wonderful ways to express one’s love. We carefully pick and choose words from a vast pool of language to convey our meaning and intentions. If this isn’t real sorcery, then what is? We humans literally breathe life into words and therefore, one word can mean different things to different people. This struck me once when I overheard a joyous teenager declaring her love for trending nail art to her friend during a metro ride. ‘Love’ being associated with such a frivolous thing had irked me then.

In our everyday conversations, we associate the word ‘love’ with a myriad number of things. Ancient Greeks recognized eight different types of love. We surely seemed to have surpassed them by creating our own meta-verse where love is used to express a range of emotions: from loving an aesthetic lamp to our favourite chef’s signature dish; from describing our ardent admiration for a celeb to exhibiting feelings for a recently done nail art; this single four lettered word has become increasingly ubiquitous. From using “I love you’ as a band-aid in abusive relationships to saying, “Oh, I love xyz too” as an ice breaker, “love is now a word used too much and much too soon”. And, this isn’t a wonderful thing. 

The Dalai Lama had said, “The purpose of our lives is to be happy”. Studies around the world have concluded that loving relationships are an essential ingredient to a person’s well-being and happiness. So, in our quest for them, we humans seek for it everywhere. The pursuit begins early on in our life and turns into a hunt during our teens and early twenties where we try to accumulate love in the form of acceptance and coolness. 

In the current fast-paced era where the validity of ‘forever’ has reduced as per convenience and pragmatism, anything that appeals in an ‘instant’ is what wins over the hearts and minds of people. Love has now begun to be associated with verbs and nouns that provide instant gratification and temporary fulfillment; like options, flings, messages instead of loyalty, commitment and physical presence. The advent of social media has provided a social structure where real identities are now being pruned to portray a life and size that can garner more likes and followers. Majority of us have unconsciously jumped onto this bandwagon ‘to be liked’ not leaving much room and time to make love or feel loved. 

But all of this contradicts the sacrosanctity of ‘love’ whose basis is attributed to a ‘purpose’ and ‘permanence’ i.e. we want to nurture what we love forever. So am I insinuating that love has lost its meaning in the current age and that’s why the overuse or misuse? No, absolutely not. Love is too sacred and powerful for that. Perhaps it’s just the difference in perspective, intensity and medium. People still seek for love but sadly, it is now sought through ‘likes’. Moreover, the haste has surely impacted the patience to discover genuineness in relationships which is not an innocuous a deal as understood by many.

Love is often misunderstood as just a feeling courtesy movies, novels and media. During college days, I remember watching Reese Witherspoon starrer ‘Just like Heaven‘ and that’s when I realized that falling in love is not just about feeling fuzzy and your heart flutter. Love should be spelled through actions and that’s the kind of love one needs – one that doesn’t let you die, that gives life to your dreams, that lets you bloom, that makes gardens for you (metaphorically), holds your hand and then kisses it as if passing on an elixir of life. 

We all need such a kind of love, one that speaks to us in ‘actions’. Though during the early stages of a romantic relationship, our understanding of love is purely based on how our partner makes us ‘feel’. But as the relationship ripens, one understands that it’s more than that. Our feelings for our partner inspire us to make the choice of working each day on the areas that strengthen the relationship, which in turn makes us feel loved; and the cycle continues. So love isn’t something that just happens. Yes the attraction might happen instantly but love takes long to brew. It fluctuates and over the years makes you trust the efforts you see. Yet, why does it always take so long to build that trust? 

It is because we expect people to behave, treat and make us feel a certain way. And that cognizance to reciprocate our love in a manner that would make us feel loved in a manner we desire takes time. 

Over time several artists and literary geniuses have tried to simplify the idea of love through their work. One of them is author Natasha Lunn who in her book ‘Conversations on Love’ has well captured the essence of love in its many interpretations. She writes: “We don’t learn about love at school, we don’t research it, or take a test in it, or review it once a year. We’re encouraged to learn about economics, grammar and geography, but not love. It seems strange to me, how we expect so much from love, and yet devote so little time to understanding it. Like wanting to dive into the sea but having no interest in learning how to swim.” Isn’t that an interesting analogy? Also relevant and true.

Interestingly, most of us are enamoured with the idea of love, but rarely do we try to find its truth. Somehow we are wired to believe that ‘love is all we need’ and without a romantic partner there would be an emptiness in our life. Perhaps this is the reason that when years ago the Beatles crooned “All you need is love,” we all swayed our hands in harmony and affirmation. Filling a void isn’t a good enough reason to find love. As an individual, we need to aim for creating more meaningful relationships in our lives. Any and all kinds of love or happiness find its way via that. Doesn’t sound convincing? Let me elaborate on it. Different people relate to different sides of our personality and therefore adore us for different reasons. Remember the Airtel ad with the tagline – “Har friend zaroori hota hai”. In the same way, every relationship has its own charm and importance. Having all eggs in one basket is a risky proposition in terms of investment and life in general. That’s why we derive different kinds of love from different relationships. 

Bell Hooks pointed out in ‘All About Love’ that “Learning faulty definitions of love when we are quite young makes it difficult to be loving as we grow older. A good definition marks a starting point and lets us know where we want to end up.” I am in my thirties now and for me, the meaning of love has changed multiple times during my lifetime. But over the years what I discovered through my experience made me firmly believe that “love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get; only with what you are expecting to give – which is everything.” It’s about generously giving what you want to receive. It’s about finding ways to be grateful for and be present in the moment to receive all the little joys of life. 

So yes love might have no definite meaning and might be unknowable in unforeseeable ways but it is amazing to unravel its significance. If you still think you don’t understand love, think again, look around and pay attention to the love in those ordinary moments of your life. Trust me, you’ll be grateful.

Anuradha G

Anuradha Gupta

A 34 year old educator from Gurgaon, Anuradha has done B.Tech plus MBA. As a professional, she handles ‘Quality Assurance ‘ for a coding education firm but is a teacher and writer by passion. She began her career with Risk Consulting and Internal Audit, and later moved to the Education sector after a corporate stint of 6 years. The pensive soul in her believes that art in any form has the power to influence our thinking and life. She has co-authored 6 anthologies and wishes to become a celebrated author one day. She loves music, movies and books. You can reach her on instagram @anuradha_gupta2706 My feelings and thoughts make me a ‘blahcksheep’ and I wish to bring in fresh perspectives, more positivity and make people less judgmental using them.  


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